Chilliwack’s masters swimmers move outside during COVID pandemic

Senior swimmers tackled a length-of-the-lake swim at Cultus Lake, capping off months of training

A group of senior swimmers picked the perfect day for a three mile swim, diving into Cultus Lake on a scorching hot Sunday.

Members of the Chilliwack Masters Swim Club (CMSC), joined by B.C. Senior Games swimmers from the area, slipped into the refreshing water at Lindell Beach just past 8 a.m. and didn’t come ashore until they reached Main Beach.

About 100 metres into the journey, CMSC president Neil Reeder poked his head out the water and jokingly yelled, ‘Are we there yet?’

Then it was back to work, head down and pushing towards a goal that he and his teammates have been building toward since April.

“When we started, we were going out to what we call ‘Swimmer’s Rock,’ which was about a mile round trip, and it was exhausting,” Reeder said.

READ MORE: Chilliwack swimmer Neil Reeder leads the field at English Bay meet

READ MORE: Chilliwack swimmers collect many medals at masters provincials

The athletes gathered at Main Beach for each practice, and each time out they went a little further.

From one mile and exhausted, we’re up to three miles and having fun,” Reeder noted. “And the water is a lot warmer now!”

Swimming the length of Cultus Lake on a burner of a Sunday in August is one thing.

Dipping into the frigid waters five months ago was another thing entirely, with temperatures in the 13 Celsius range.

“You went in and you got one of those ice-cream headaches,” Reeder laughed.

But it was necessary because of COVID-19. When the pandemic hit and Chilliwack’s swimming pools were closed, Reeder and crew were forced to cancel their annual meet and had no place to train. Friends from another senior swim club he’s in started swimming in Sasamat Lake, which is Belcarra Regional Park in Port Moody.

“It was cold, but I liked it, and I suggested to our members, ‘Why don’t we start swimming in it (Cultus Lake?’” he said. “One by one they bought wetsuits and we started doing that. We’re not swimming as a club because of COVID and social distancing and needing permission from the province.

“But five or six of us are in the water three or four times a week, and we’ve been joined by people from other swim teams.”

There is of course a difference between the relatively placid waters of the Landing Leisure Centre and the oft-choppy open water of Cultus Lake.

“There’s waves,” Reeder said with a chuckle. “You get a lot of motorboats.”

As the weather’s warmed up, more of them have been on the water, and the swimmers have taken to attaching bright orange floaties to their belts.

“It’s much easier to see us, and for the most part, if the motorboaters see us they respect us,” Reeder said.

This is the second year in a row that club members have swam the length of the lake.

Something that emerged as the response to a pandemic may end up a fixture on the CMSC calendar.

“We weren’t talking much in March because we weren’t together at the pool, and when this started it was just a way to get us all back together, in the water and staying in some sort of shape,” Reeder said. “But it’s been really enjoyable.”


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